Wealthy Florida couple give different accounts of violent confrontation
[This story originally aired on April 4, 2020. It was updated on February 20, 2021.]
When police were called to the upscale Gainesville, Florida, home of Mike and Sue Reuschel in the early morning hours of February 3, 2018, they found the couple stabbed and bleeding.
Mike told cops an intruder had crept into their house and attacked them. But when Sue awoke from surgery for her life-threatening in juries, she gave police a different story—saying Mike was her true attacker.
The motive? Prosecutors say Sue told Mike that night that she wanted a divorce, and he attempted to kill her to avoid having to split his multimillion dollar fortune with her.
“This case is about … the power of money,” says prosecutor David Byron. “It’s about the power of desire for control.”
Mike and his defense claim Sue was an abusive wife who was often in conflict with Mike over his daughter Caroline — and Caroline’s expensive wedding only made things worse.
“There’s no way on God’s green earth that my father would … stab anyone,” says Caroline Reuschel. “Never in one million years would I think thatfor all of this.”
So, what really happened that night?
Peter Van Sant: Where were you and how did you learn that your father on February 3rd, 2018, had been arrested?
Caroline Reuschel: I was in Chicago with my husband. And I got … an incoming call on my cell phone and it was a recording that said, “An inmate from the Alachua County Jail has called you.”
Minutes later, the phone rang again. Caroline Reuschel quickly answered and heard the voice she’d known her entire life.
Caroline Reuschel: And he said, “Caroline …you have to get me out of here … You need to call my lawyer.” And I dropped to the sidewalk [crying] and I just sat on the sidewalk.
The events leading to the arrest of Mike Reuschel began to unwind very early that morning after he called police.
911 OPERATOR: Tell me exactly what happened?
MIKE REUSCHEL: I don’t know. Someone’s in the house and the next thing I know I wake up next to my wife and I’m bleeding.
Mike reported that he and his wife Sue had been stabbed by an intruder inside their home in an upscale section of Gainesville.
OFFICER: So, you’re fighting with the subject and then he just ran off, you managed to scare him off.
MIKE REUSCHEL: Yeah, I guess.
Sue’s injuries were life threatening and, as medics rushed to save her, Detective David Visconti was called to the scene.
Det. David Visconti | Alachua County Sheriff’s Office: [driving with Peter Van Sant]: There was no forced entry initially observed by any of our deputies.
Peter Van Sant: No broken window, no knocked down door. Nothing like that at all?
Det. David Visconti: No, sir.
Still, Visconti had no doubt that something terrible had happened inside that house.
Det. David Visconti: There was most certainly a struggle … There was a vast amount of blood around the bed that was located on the wall of the bedroom …
But overall, the scene was missing something, Visconti said, and he did not believe a violent intruder had been there.
Det. David Visconti: Typically, we’ll see many things — knocked over, furniture, items broken, indentations in the walls, in the drywall.
Peter Van Sant: Did you see any of that?
Det. David Visconti: None of those things were present.
What’s more, the Reuschels had security cameras covering the outside the house.
Det. David Visconti: The intruder allegedly fleeing the house from that direction is something that would have been captured on video.
The veteran detective was becoming suspicious. Then, hours later, Sue awoke from surgery and broke this case wide open — telling detectives that the story about an intruder attacking them was a lie. She claimed that Mike concocted the whole thing, and that he was her true assailant. Mike was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Didi Hoffman: … he could never have done anything like this.
Mike’s ex-wife Didi Hoffman was incredulous.
Didi Hoffman: I have known Michael James Reuschel since I was 19 … and I wouldn’t be here today if I thought Mike was possibly capable of harming another person.
Didi met Mike in college; they married and had two daughters, Caroline and Kate.
Peter Van Sant: During your many years with Mike, was he ever physically abusive to you?
Didi Hoffman: He never touched me. Not ever. Never.
But, like in many marriages, there were problems. Mike made millions in the technology business; his job required him to travel all over the world.
Didi Hoffman: Truthfully, he wasn’t around much, so it was — it was hard.
In 2005, after 25 years of marriage, Didi asked for a divorce. Didi said she moved out of the family home so their children, away at college, could always return to the house where they were raised. But soon, another woman unexpectedly joined the family.
Didi Hoffman: I moved out in July … But then, all of a sudden … Susan moves into our house.
Sue was then 38 years old and a hospice nurse. She and Mike, 49, met on Match.com and Didi says Sue quickly became the lady of the manor. Didi says everything she left behind—including her dog—became Sue’s.
Didi Hoffman: Mike and I were really opposites. He was engaging and outgoing and …And I was really — and I think I still am — more reserved and … not quite so exuberant. And I think he was looking for exuberance.
Caroline remembers the first time she met Sue at a dinner.
Caroline Reuschel: And my dad seemed to be laughing and having a good time.
But Caroline says she couldn’t help but notice how much Sue was drinking.
Caroline Reuschel: We’ve never seen anyone take down five to six martinis and be able to stand and speak.
Some two years after they met, Mike married Sue in August 2007. Mike stopped traveling and bought a local business. The couple’s happier times are reflected in some of the thousands of text messages that surfaced during legal proceedings. Mike refers to Sue as his “trophy bride,” and writes that their lives together are simply “amazing.”
But Caroline says Sue became jealous of the close relationship she had with her father and tried to keep them apart.
Caroline Reuschel: She had such walls around him … He wouldn’t call me unless he was in a car alone. He wasn’t allowed to take my call in front [voice breaks] of her.
But surprisingly when Caroline announced in 2016 that she was getting married, Sue was happy to help. But, Caroline says, Sue wanted to do it her way.
Caroline Reuschel: Sue was pretty adamant about throwing me a shower … My mother was invited, but none of my mother’s friends were invited. So, the majority of the guests were Sue’s friends and family
But Caroline admits the shower was a lot of fun and she was looking forward to the wedding. Sue helped her pick out a dress.
Caroline Reuschel: I tried on a dress and I liked it … and Sue kept telling me like, “this is your dress. This is your dress. It’s so beautiful. You have to have this.”
Sue handed over her credit card and it was done.
Peter Van Sant: Do you mind me asking how much the dress was worth?
Caroline Reuschel: Ugh. This is so gauche — I think it was 11.
Peter Van Sant: $11,000?
Caroline Reuschel: Yes.
The wedding itself in November 2017 would be a royal-like affair. The setting was the sumptuous Oheka Castle on Long Island. 160 people attended the wedding and Caroline says the day was “magical.”
Caroline Reuschel: My husband and I know how lucky we are to have had that weekend … it was beyond beautiful.
Caroline says it was nearly perfect except for something that caught her eye — an unusual mark on her father’s face.
Caroline Reuschel: The last thing I saw before walking down the aisle at my wedding was … this white scar from here to here [left cheek to chin]. And in my mind, I was, like, “What is that?”
Weeks later, she found out. Michael revealed to Caroline a dark, disturbing secret: Sue, he said, had been physically abusing him for years.
A TOXIC MARRIAGE
Caroline Reuschel: I called him on his birthday…. And I said … “How are you doing?” And he just started crying.
It was late November 2017, just three weeks after her fairy-tale wedding, when Caroline says her father shared a disturbing secret about Sue that he had promised not to tell.
Caroline Reuschel: And he said … “Sue was arrested” … And he said … ‘she started attacking me.” … and I think he was so victimized … that he was really scared to tell anyone.
Sue had been charged with domestic battery, but the details of what happened that day would not become public until two years later at Mike’s trial for attempted murder, when they both testified about the last tumultuous months of their marriage.
Peter Van Sant: What was the state of their marriage?
David Byron | Prosecutor: I think it was in the lowest place that it could possibly be before divorce
SUE REUSCHEL [in court]: I was upset.
Sue told prosecutor David Byron that shortly after Caroline’s wedding, Mike told her it had gone nearly $150,000 over budget:
DAVID BYRON: Was it fair to say that you were partially upset with the defendant, but mostly at Caroline?
SUE REUSCHEL: Yes.
Mike says Sue attacked him when the fight escalated:
MIKE REUSCHEL: She throws the phone at me and charges around the bed, pushes and starts her typical beating like this [bangs his fists].
But Mike didn’t call 911 that day — Sue did:
SUE REUSCHEL: I just felt as though things were a little out of control.
When police arrived, Sue admitted to pushing Mike and agreed to go to their beach condo to defuse the situation. But she was arrested a half an hour later when she hadn’t yet left the house:
SUE REUSCHEL: He said, “Please place your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest.”
Sue told the jury that she was ordered to stay away from Mike. She moved to their beach condo and got counseling for alcohol and anger management. Weeks later, Mike declined to pursue the battery charge and it was dropped.
Peter Van Sant: Did she have a problem with alcohol?
Sean Brewer | Prosecutor: Susan Reuschel has testified … that at times when she would drink, she would lose her temper.
But Mike says Sue’s actions went way beyond a bad temper. He told the jury she had tormented him for years:
MIKE REUSCHEL: She lunged at me again, punched in the face, scratched my face, punched me in the arms and bent my glasses, actually.
Caroline Reuschel: She would throw things at him. Very heavy things like vases and very heavy coffee mugs.
Sue denies abusing Mike and Mike never reported any of the alleged incidents to police.
Peter Van Sant: Is it true that you have seen your father with a black eye?
Caroline Reuschel: He’s sent me multiple pictures of him with a black eye.
Mike did take photos of some injuries which he shared with Caroline and later, the jury.
Caroline Reuschel: He has a picture … that he showed me …of his face gushing blood. And there was one mark from here to here [moving her finger from her right cheek to her chin].
The prosecution admits this injury may have been caused by Sue, but they say the evidence shows Sue was fighting for her life after Mike attacked her.
David Byron: There are text messages where she accuses him of smothering her with a pillow, which in fact is the same instance that she ended up scratching him in the face.
Despite the alleged abuse and Sue’s arrest, Mike says he still loved his wife and wanted to stay married. In February 2018 he asked Sue to come to Gainesville for the weekend.
SUE REUSCHEL: Mike had asked me to come in. …He wanted us to work on the marriage.
They decided to go to their favorite steak house. Sue is seen on home security video getting ready and enjoying a glass of wine. Mike arrives home, and the two share a kiss before heading out. But over steaks and more wine, old wounds reopened.
SUE REUSCHEL: He had just received a text message from Caroline.
Sue says that’s when Mike admitted he had betrayed her trust by telling Caroline about Sue’s arrest.
SUE REUSCHEL: He and I both agreed that we weren’t going to discuss that.
Mike drove home alone. Sue followed in an Uber, her anger spilling into a series text messages about Caroline: “Good luck with your bitch” … “She will ruin any relationship you have”
Once home, they went to separate parts of the house. Sue continued her angry texts: “I am filing for divorce.” “I will leave in the morning.” The last text from Sue is sent at 10:13 p.m. “You have serious boundary issues with your daughter.”
Later, Sue says she was alone in the guest room when Mike entered. There are no cameras inside that room:
SUE REUSCHEL: And he just hopped on top of me … and I felt, like, this pressure … right here [leans back and gestures to her stomach]. And then all the sudden I saw a knife coming. … I said,” Oh, my God Mike, did you just stab me?” And he said yes.
DAVID BYRON: At some point does he say something to you?
SUE REUSCHEL: He said, “uh, Sue, we’re not getting a divorce.”
Sue says Mike was on top of her, pinning her arms with his legs. In the struggle, her left thumb was sliced. Then, she says, Mike stabbed her again:
SUE REUSCHEL: In my neck. Right here.
Sue says Mike then started slashing her wrist:
SUE REUSCHEL: I felt like he was mutilating me. … My hand, it was like this [showing her scars]. I couldn’t feel anything, and I could see into my arm
Losing blood, her life in danger, Sue says she vomited and lost control of her bodily functions. She says she tried to wriggle out from under Mike, and they ended up lying sideways across the bed:
SUE REUSCHEL: He just said to me, “Sue, we’re just going to lay here until you die.”
Sue says as she was lying there, struggling to stay awake, she saw Mike raise the knife yet again. Desperate, she offered him a way out.
SUE REUSCHEL: I said, “Michael we don’t have to divorce. … I won’t divorce you” … he just put the knife down.
Sue says after Mike put the knife down, she begged him to call for help — but he would only do that if she agreed to say an intruder had stabbed her.
Sean Brewer: When she agrees … to go with his story of the intruders, she saved her life.
A toxic marriage, texts brimming with hate, and a bloody room. Mike Reuschel’s future will now depend on whether he can convince jurors that he is the real victim.
MIKE’S CLAIMS OF ABUSE
When first responders entered the bloody scene in the early morning hours of February 3, 2018, they’d been told by Mike Reuschel that a stranger had broken into their home and assaulted his wife — and then him — with a knife.
But in court, now with his defense attorneys Patrick McGuinness and Ann Finnell, Mike admits that story was a lie, and says he’s finally ready to tell the truth. He says, despite Sue’s drinking and violent outbursts, he was hoping to reconcile that night.
MIKE REUSCHEL: I don’t care if she’s a mellow drunk the rest of her life. Just the anger’s got to go.
But at dinner, once again, they fought about Caroline and that fight continued back at the house. After that, Mike and Sue’s stories diverge. Mike says he came into the guest room a little after 10 p.m. and was startled to see Sue kneeling on the bed, holding a knife.
MIKE REUSCHEL: I said Sue, give me the knife. And then next thing I know … I felt searing heat, that’s — that’s all I remember and I’m just trying to get my hands on it. And I’m on the bed with her now, we’re all on our knees.
Mike doesn’t say how he got his hands on the knife, but he says as they struggled and fell over on the bed, he felt the blade go into Sue’s stomach.
MIKE REUSCHEL: She’s falling backwards and I’m falling in front and on top. I felt the knife penetrate here [pointing to his stomach] and I rolled off as fast as I could because I was afraid that if it went in her it would kill her.
Mike offers no explanation for how Sue was stabbed in the neck or thumb, but he does say about one minute into the struggle, he somehow calmed her down and put the knife out of reach.
PATRICK MCGUINESS | Defense attorney: Now, you’re both bleeding during this point in time, right?
MIKE REUSCHEL: Yeah, but it’s not spurting, and there’s no blood at all you can see on Sue through the — through here [points towards his upper torso, where Sue was first stabbed].
MIKE REUSCHEL: I said, “Sue, we need to go to the hospital.” And she said, “Then make up a story so I don’t get arrested.”
Mike says they argued about a possible cover story, but then, as bizarre as it sounds, they just lay together — bleeding — for several hours, having what Mike says was one of the best conversations of their lives about future vacations to Europe:
MIKE REUSCHEL: We talked about … going to Germany on the Rhine and Moselle River cruise. … maybe we’d do Burgundy next.
If Mike is speaking the truth, this happy conversation happened on a bed soaked with blood and human waste. Mike never mentions that, and prosecutor David Byron suspects why.
Peter Van Sant: Is this believable?
David Byron | Prosecutor: I don’t think it’s believable at all. … He held her there and he can’t admit that.
David Byron: Michael Reuschel had months and months to go over the evidence and construct a story that fit with things that he couldn’t admit.
According to Mike, at about 3 a.m., their dog, Susie, wandered into this bloody scene, where violence was about to erupt again.
MIKE REUSCHEL: I get up out of the bed to deal with the dog, and — and behind me was the knife. And next thing I know … She sliced her right wrist with her left hand.
PAT MCGUINNESS Did you talk to her about why she had cut herself?
MIKE REUSCHEL: Yeah, she said she doesn’t want to go to jail. …I said, “Sue, I’m not going to send you to jail. I’m not going to get you arrested. Calm down.” She goes, “You promise? You promise?” I said, “Yes.”
As Mike tells it, Sue cooked up the whole idea to lie to police, and he reluctantly agreed in order to protect her.
MIKE REUSCHEL: I said then the only chance I have is to turn the cameras off to give a window of opportunity to say someone broke in and did this to us.
Mike says after Sue cut her own wrist, he left the room to turn off security cameras and stage a break-in. Twenty-five minutes passed before he called 911 and turned the cameras on again.
David Byron: And he’s doing that with the knowledge that with every beat of her heart, more of her blood is pouring into that bed.
But the defense thinks the blood at the crime scene helps to prove their case.
Michael Berkland: People lie. The forensics don’t lie. And that’s why the blood spatter was so important in this case.
Michael Berkland is a former doctor and blood stain pattern analyst who testified for the defense.
Peter Van Sant: What do you consider the most important blood evidence inside that bedroom?
Michael Berkland: The arterial spurt patterns.
Berkland says he reviewed records which stated a small artery in Sue’s wrist was cut that night. And he believes the blood on the pillowcase and on the nightstand came from that artery.
Michael Berkland: The important thing about arteries though is that you get blood coming out of that with every beat of the heart.
Berkland uses stage blood and a small syringe to demonstrate the way Sue’s blood may have travelled, making a line or fine spray of drops.
Peter Van Sant: So, the blood, in your opinion, gives us a timeline as to when Sue’s wrist was actually cut.
Michael Berkland: Correct… because arteries don’t close up on their own.
Remember, Sue says the attack, including the cuts to her wrist, started sometime after 10:13 p.m. But Mike says Sue cut her own wrist at around 3 a.m. — hours later. Berkland says if Sue’s wrist was cut before 11 p.m., she would have died long before help arrived.
Peter Van Sant: How much time did she have to live, in your opinion?
Michael Berkland: If the wounds happened no later than 11:00, she’s dead before it ever hits midnight.
Peter Van Sant: Which leads you to believe what?
Michael Berkland: When it comes to this injury to the wrist, Michael’s story makes more sense.
The defense team says if we can’t trust Sue’s account about what time things happened, then her entire story is suspect.
ANN FINNELL | Defense attorney: It is absolutely impossible to have happened the way she claims it did.
WHO WAS THE TRUE AGGRESSOR?
Inside a box, encased in protective plastic, are the remnants of the vicious confrontation inside that bedroom that prosecutor Sean Brewer is certain contain evidence of an attempted murder.
Sean Brewer | Prosecutor: This is the knife that was used to stab Susan.
Peter Van Sant: The bending in this knife you believe is a result of it … hitting bone, and … it bent the blade?
Sean Brewer That’s correct.
Peter Van Sant: This is a lot of blood. Brewer: This is a lot of blood
Peter Van Sant: This is Mike Reuschel’s pajamas?
Sean Brewer: Yes, and they are soaked in blood.
Peter Van Sant: And whose blood is that?
Sean Brewer: Well, Susan is the one who had the injuries that provided the mass amount of bleeding.
Peter Van Sant: So, if blood could talk, this blood is telling you what?
Sean Brewer: This blood is telling me that Michael … was on top of her while he was stabbing her, and she was bleeding quite a bit without any aid.
Prosecutors say this evidence backs up Sue’s testimony that Mike attacked her. They also say the items on that bedside table help prove this was not a dynamic fight between two people. David Byron says that only one person had control of the situation: Mike Reuschel.
David Byron | Prosecutor:: There’s a full glass of wine, there’s some glasses, there’s a lamp. And its evidence of the fact that Michael Reuschel was so physically capable of constraining her that none of those things are disturbed.
And the prosecution disputes defense expert Michael Berkland’s claim that these stains on the nightstand came from spurting blood from Sue’s wrist. Instead, their expert says the blood was most likely castoff— flung from the knife and not from Sue cutting her own wrist:
David Byron: The castoff shows that he was swinging that knife as he’s plunging it into her stomach and into her neck.
Prosecutor Brewer not only attacks Berkland’s conclusions, he also challenges his credibility, letting jurors know that his medical license was suspended, and he was later arrested for storing body parts from autopsies in Tupperware containers — in an unusual place:
SEAN BREWER: You were storing them at Uncle Bob’s storage shed, weren’t you?
MICHAEL BERKLAND: In a climate-controlled room.
SEAN BREWER: Were you storing them at Uncle Bob’s Storage shed?
MICHAEL BERKLAND: Yeah.
SEAN BREWER: and the actual organs that you were storing included brains and hearts?
MICHAEL BERKLAND: I did have some hearts and brains, yes.
Berkland says the organs were preserved for private cases he was working on while he was still a licensed doctor.
MICHAEL BERKLAND: I used the storage locker because they were safe and secured … either that or I put them in my house. This was safer than my house.
The charges were later dropped. Prosecutors also want the jury to know that the severity of Sue’s wrist wound suggests she did not do it herself:
David Byron: The one that was truly life-threatening was the cuts that the defendant made to her wrist.
Sean Brewer: She was cut all the way down to the bone.
Mike’s injuries were a lot less serious. He had some small cuts on his fingers and stomach. And Sue says the larger cuts to his forearms were, in fact, self-inflicted.
SUE REUSCHEL: He put the knife in my hand … and he stabbed himself in the arm.
And what about that story Mike told investigators that an intruder did all this? The prosecution says it was all his idea to cover up what he had done.
Sean Brewer: He turned off the cameras and did things to make the police believe that there had been a burglar.
And the motive for this alleged attack? The prosecution believes it was all about money … that Mike didn’t want to give up half his fortune — millions of dollars — in a divorce.
DAVID BYRON: You didn’t tell this jury … that after all you’ve been through, it didn’t seem fair for Susan to take half your money?
MICHAEL REUSCHEL: Yeah, that is true. It didn’t seem fair.
The prosecution refutes Mike’s claims that he still wanted to reconcile the troubled marriage by pointing out that he had visited three dating sites:
DAVID BYRON: Ukrainian single girl, Irina. She’s 18 years old, right?
MIKE REUSCHEL: I looked at pictures of women with clothes on, yes, sir.
DAVID BYRON: I understand they have clothes on, sir. The question I’m asking is, you were looking for your next girlfriend, right?
MIKE REUSCHEL: No, I’ll tell you exactly what I was looking for.
DAVID BYRON: Sure.
MIKE REUSCHEL: All I want out of a woman in my life is someone to be kind and nice to me. That’s all I care about. … I looked at pictures and descriptions of … how they would treat their male. And Sue and I looked at these together many times in our relationship and say “Sue that’s all I need from anybody. Please be nice to me, please.”
The defense counters that Mike’s other internet searches prove that he was being abused by Sue:
PAT MCGUINNESS: Did you visit numerous sites related to battered husbands?
MIKE REUSCHEL: Yes, I did.
But the prosecution doesn’t think it’s credible that Mike was a battered spouse.
David Byron: He has all of the economic resources. He’s not cut off from any family members. … Michael Reuschel doesn’t meet any of the criteria for what a battered spouse is.
The defense also tries to counter Sue’s claim that Mike’s attack came after she threatened divorce. They produced dozens of text messages going back to 2015 that show Sue had made that threat many, many times:
ANN FINNELL: You actually say, “for the 50th time, I want a divorce.”
SUE REUSCHEL: It’s just an expression, like saying for the, you know, one hundredth time.
ANN FINNELL: But it is about 50 times, isn’t it?
SUE REUSCHEL: I don’t know. I didn’t count.
And defense attorney Ann Finnell suggests those texts also reveal Sue’s destructive intentions:
ANN FINNELL: Have you told him “I hate you?”
SUE REUSCHEL: Yes.
ANN FINNELL: OK. You’ve said, “I will destroy you.”
SUE REUSCHEL: Yes.
ANN FINNELL: And on your anniversary in 2017, “hate u … Happy 10th anniversary. I’m divorcing u … U d—k.” You said that?
SUE REUSCHEL: Yes.
In her closing argument, Finnell insists Mike would never try to kill for money. She says Sue was the aggressor that night, and Mike was just defending himself:
ANN FINNELL: She hates everybody. She hates his daughters; she hates his former spouse … That’s how hateful this woman was and is.
But the prosecution says there is no question Mike wanted Sue dead.
DAVID BYRON: This is not a frenzied struggle between two adults. This is a blood bath committed by one person who has imprisoned the other on that bed.
In the war of the Reuschels, jurors will soon decide which one they believe.
Peter Van Sant: As the jury goes out to deliberate — what are those minutes and hours like for you?
Caroline Reuschel: [Crying] I just, like, couldn’t talk to anyone. I spent the past year-and-a-half, like, mentally preparing myself for the worst and hoping for the best.
Caroline does not have long to wait. After a 9-day trial, it took little more than 4 hours for the jury to reach a verdict.
Peter Van Sant: They say a quick verdict is often a prosecutor’s verdict.
David Byron: It’s a thought that creeps into your head … but you never really know what a jury is going to do.
JUDGE: Members of the jury, I understand you have reached a verdict?
JURY FOREPERSON: We have your honor.
JUDGE: Would you please pass it to my bailiff?
FOREPERSON: We the jury unanimously find as follows defendant Michael James Reuschel in this case, as to count 1 the defendant is guilty of attempted first-degree murder as charged.
Guilty. Mike Reuschel is convicted of the most serious count against him.
Caroline Reuschel: We were all so shocked.
FOREPERSON: As to count two, the defendant is guilty of false imprisonment …
In quick succession, the jury also finds Reuschel guilty of four additional crimes including false imprisonment and tampering with evidence.
Jurors utterly reject Mike’s story of a knife fight with his wife. Prosecutor Sean Brewer says justice was served to a man who lied to investigators and to the jury.
Sean Brewer | Prosecutor: Michael went through great lengths to try and kill Susan. He just wasn’t very good at it.
And what’s more, Brewer says, Mike Reuschel tried to kill Sue not once but twice. While he was in jail awaiting trial, an informant came forward to claim Mike tried to hire a hit man to kill Sue — a charge Mike strongly denies.
Peter Van Sant: Do you believe that your father, in jail, plotted to hire someone to murder his wife?
Caroline Reuschel: No … honestly, I don’t mean to laugh. But it is beyond laughable.
As we were interviewing Caroline, she got a phone call that surprised us.
Caroline Reuschel: Dad? Hi! I’m good. I’m — with “48 Hours” right now, literally — with cameras.
Mike Reuschel allowed Van Sant to ask a few questions.
Peter Van Sant: Mike … I just wanna hear you tell me…. Did you … take a knife into the room that night on February 2nd, 2018, and attack your wife?
Mike Reuschel: Absolutely not.
Peter Van Sant: And you’re telling me the truth?
Mike Reuschel: Absolutely. On my children’s lives … all I did was defend myself … when I got attacked.
In December 2019,, everyone returns to Judge William Davis’ courtroom for sentencing. The victim in this crime, Sue Reuschel, does not appear in person.
When it’s Caroline’s turn to speak, the moment is charged with emotion:
CAROLINE REUSCHEL: [Crying]: No one is as positive, generous and caring as this man… I will say I am and will always be a proud daughter.
MATT F.: He is one of the most caring, kind gentle people I have ever met.
Several colleagues and friends speak of Mike in glowing terms:
JENIFER L: He’s a good person.
CLAYTON C.: The Mike Reuschel I know is a stand-up gentleman.
Then, Judge William Davis took center stage. Mike was about to learn his fate.
JUDGE WILLIAM DAVIS: The person I heard through the evidence and the witnesses was someone who was cold, they were brutal … On count one, the attempted first-degree premeditated murder, I’m going to sentence you to 30 years imprisonment.
All told, the judge gives Reuschel 30 years, not the 50 years requested by prosecutors. But for Mike, who is 64 years old, it is, in essence, a life sentence.
Peter Van Sant: Here are two sophisticated people, very wealthy, living in paradise, one of most beautiful parts of Florida and yet they couldn’t work this out … It’s a real tragedy, isn’t it?
David Byron: Absolutely. I mean, when you hear who Michael and Susan Reuschel were before this all occurred, they lived exemplary and mostly normal lives. And to see it get to this point … really is a tragedy.
The war of the Reuschels is not over. Mike and Sue are divorcing and continue to fight over the marital assets, including the house where Sue was nearly stabbed to death.
The murder-for-hire charges against Mike Reuschel were dropped.
Produced by Sarah Prior, Paul LaRosa and Dena Goldstein. Ryan N. Smith is the development producer. Marlon Disla, Michelle Harris, Mike Baluzy and Ken Blum are the editors. Lourdes Aguiar is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.